published Friday, July 13th, 2012

Luther wins national recognition

Most Chattanooga and tri-state residents can't remember a time when Luther Masingill was not on the radio or on TV. He's been a fixture on the former for more than seven decades and has been appearing on the latter for more than half a century. As a result, both his voice and his face are probably the most recognized in the area. He'd likely be the front-runner in an election to select Chattanooga's most beloved resident. For years, though, Luther — no surname is really needed — had a relatively low profile outside the region. No more.

In 1990, Masingill was awarded the Marconi Award from the National Association of Broadcasters. In 2003, his peers in the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters awarded him the organization's Distinguished Service Award. Earlier this year, he was among the inaugural members of the new Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame. In November, he'll be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Those accolades, as well as the too-many-to-count local and regional honors and awards he's won, are richly deserved.

His broadcast career is unlikely to be duplicated. It started at WDEF radio in late 1940 when he was a senior at Central High School here. It's continued without interruption — except for two years in military service during World War II. He's appeared on WDEF-TV since the station began operation in 1954. Masingill, now 90, is likely the only broadcaster in the nation and perhaps the world who was on the air when Pearl Harbor was bombed and when the 9/11 attack too place. It's a career marked not only by longevity but by extraordinarily strong connections with his audience.

Several generations of area residents have publicly proclaimed that they could not begin their day without Luther's comforting voice on WDEF.

They — children and parents — have relied on Masingill to learn whether school has been canceled because of the weather, to hear the news of the day, to listen to traffic reports, to enlist his help in finding a lost dog, cat or more exotic animal or just to enjoy his comments and observations. He's introduced those same generations to the music of the day — from Glenn Miller to Lauren Alaina. He is, in a real sense, a member of tens of thousands of Chattanooga-area households.

Given all that, it shouldn't be a surprise that Masingill will be featured in a "CBS Evening News" segment currently scheduled to air on July 20. It's just another appropriate way to honor a singular broadcaster and remarkable man — and to properly introduce him to a national audience.

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